By Olayinka Oyegbile
Nigerian novelist Ayobami Adebayo is among 12 other writers who made the 2023 Booker Prize list.
The Booker Prize is Britain’s most prestigious literary prize open to all writers with books published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Adebayo’s book is titled A Spell of Good Things. It is her second book. Her first is titled Stay With Me.
She becomes the fifth Nigerian writer to be so nominated. However, only Ben Okri with his novel The Famished Road, won in 1991. Other Nigerian writers that have been nominated but did not win are; Chinua Achebe with Anthills of the Savannah ( 1987), Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (Purple Hibiscus,2004) and Chigozie Obioma who has been nominated twice (The Fishermen, 2015 and An Orchestra of Minorities (2019).
Others on this year’s longlist with Adebayo are: Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry, Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein, If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffrey, How To Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney, This Other Eden by Paul Harding. Others are Pearl by Siân Hughes, All the Little Bird-Hearts by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow, Prophet Song by Paul Lynch, In Ascension by Martin MacInnes, Western Lane by Chetna Maroo, The Bee Sting by Paul Murray and The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng
A statement by the administrator of the prize said, “Ten writers are recognised by the Booker Prize for the first time, while the three other authors have seven previous Booker nominations between them. The longlist also includes four debut novelists, writers from seven countries across four continents, as well as four Irish writers, who make up a third of the longlist for the first time.”
The chair of the 2023 panel, Esi Edugyan, who is a novelist and has been twice-shortlisted for Prize, is joined by actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; poet, lecturer, editor and critic Mary Jean Chan; Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Shakespeare specialist James Shapiro; and actor and writer Robert Webb.
Commenting on the longlist, Edugyan said, “We read 163 novels across seven months, and in that time whole worlds opened to us. We were transported to early 20th-century Maine and Penang, to the vibrant streets of Lagos and the squash courts of London, to the blackest depths of the Atlantic, and into a dystopic Ireland where the terrifying loss of rights comes as a hard warning.
“The list is defined by its freshness – by the irreverence of new voices, by the iconoclasm of established ones. All 13 novels cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways. Their range is vast, both in subject and form: they shocked us, made us laugh, filled us with anguish, but above all they stayed with us. This is a list to excite, challenge, delight, a list to bring wonder. The novels are small revolutions, each seeking to energise and awaken the language. Together – whether historical or contemporary – they offer startling portraits of the current.”
Also, Gaby Wood, Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation, said, “The range of experience, expertise and sensibility among this year’s judges led them to seek novels that both advanced the form and allowed the reader to understand something about the world; books that would have impact and longevity; books that moved them – and above all, books of such excellence and subtlety that the judges looked forward to re-reading them. It’s a pleasure to add to the Booker Library this selection of debut novels, new work from established Booker authors, and books by other writers at the peak of their practice who are new to the prize. We hope every reader finds something to love on this year’s list.”
The shortlist of six books will be announced on September 21, 2023. The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced on November 26.
Adebayo’s A Spell of Good Things is published in Nigeria by Ouida Books run by Lola Shoneyin, who is also a writer.